A soggy start to April

The Scottish have a word for it: dreich.

This word has several meanings when applied to weather, including wet, dull, gloomy, dismal, dreary, miserable or any combination of the above. Whilst traditionally used to sum up the month of November in the north, it was equally fitting for the conditions we experience on easter bank holiday Monday…

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A moody scene in Solfach during a brief respite in the incessant rain

With over 35mm of rain in 24 hours, the island became saturated with water: small rivers springing from usually bubbling springs, sizeable lakes appearing in the lowland areas, and the ground squelching underfoot wherever you ventured to stroll. Needless to say, the island’s new-born Lambs didn’t look particularly impressed with the ‘spring weather’, and one can only feel a little sympathetic for the spring migrants arriving from the Mediterranean and sub-saharan Africa, after all the conditions they’ve encountered en route.

Despite the conditions, it was uplifting to discover that a small arrival of passerine migrants had taken place sometime during the passing storms. The most exciting discovery was that of a smart female Hawfinch in the scattered pine trees at Ty Nesaf, which promptly flew into the observatory garden and spent the rest of the day flying to and fro between gardens, accompanied periodically by its distinctive ‘seeep’-ing call.

Aside this island scarcity, the first Swallow of the year briefly graced the skies above Nant as it powered northward – four days later than it’s arrival date in 2016; next up, a male Ring Ouzel appeared on the mountainside above Carreg Bach, which is slightly earlier than we usually first see this spring migrant on the island. Elsewhere, census counts included two Wheatears, a Song Thrush, two Blackcaps, 17 Chiffchaffs, nine Goldcrests and a Bullfinch.

I didn’t manage any images of the above migrants, so here is are some lovely Great Black-backed Gulls:

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Whilst it’s not a particularly common occurrence here on Bardsey, Great Black-backed Gull predation of Manx shearwaters can be high in other colonies where GBBG breeding populations are much higher. On Skokholm Island, for example, they are responsible for devouring over 4000 shearwaters every year!

The combination of high tides and strong south-east winds made for a nice selection of waders around The Narrows, including some 47 Purple Sandpipers, 130 Oystercatchers, 14 Redshanks and single Curlew and Whimbrel

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as the World’s most northerly wintering wader, the Purple Sandpiper is a pretty hardy coastal species. Birds on passage at the moment are bound for the subarctic and arctic regions of northern Europe and even northern Canada/Alaska
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Whimbrel numbers will slowly start increasing until the peak passage period later this month, when flocks of over 30 or 40 birds could be milling around the coast
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One of the more natural pieces of floatsam washed in by the tide (it’s not a piece of plastic litter!): a ‘Mermaid’s Purse’, or to be more scientific, the eggcase of what I believe to be a Smallspotted Catshark. Find out more: https://www.sharktrust.org/

End note: It’s pretty amazing the difference a day can make, with today’s spring sunshine and warm southerly breeze bringing out the bright flowering heads of Lesser Celandines and Daisies, along with a fresh arrival migrants…fingers crossed we’ve put the worst of the weather behind us!

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